Friday, October 21, 2011

Problems we all wish we had.

I am struggling with a problem that probably doesn't sound like a problem but it weighs on my mind as a parent because I am so incredibly worried about being a crappy parent.  I'm not worried about the typical stuff that happens - there are plenty of "Why don't I get to watch as much t.v. as my other friends!" or "So-and-So has way more Wii games than me and you never let me play video games!" (which isn't true - we just have a strict screen time limit).  I'm sure that by the teenage years I will be like any other parent is to a teen - Draconian and stupid.  But I worry about screwing up in a BIG way. In a my kid ends up in years-of-therapy, always in abusive relationships or horribly addicted to drugs or has a character disorder and loses custody of her own kids way.

On the outside I am apparently an old-fashioned parent:  I expect children to be polite and respectful toward me and one another and that is non-negotiable.  I expect homework to be a priority and learning to be a priority and at this age that's easy because all you have to do is make it fun.  That's pretty much the sugar coating in my parenting is making what must be done fun.  There is a big limit on what gets watched on t.v. - no Cartoon Network, I censor what Disney shows can be watched, no shows where it's supposed to be funny that they are putting each other down in a mean way or making fun of people (not till the teen years at least).  No video games unless they are educational (there are some pretty fun Barbie/fairy/princess video games that are educational, btw).  No first person shooter video games until the child can write the code themself - then they can make whatever kind of video game they want (seriously - that is my rule). And respect, respect, respect.  Respect yourself, respect others, respect your stuff, respect other people's stuff.  And take responsibility for your actions - which at this age I believe means that there are consistent and firm consequences to misbehavior that I lay down.  None of this wait until the dog starves to death and the child learns that not feeding the dog is bad.  Don't feed the dog like you're supposed to on the first night? Then you'll get an explanation why that is bad, how you wouldn't want me to not feed *you*, then take away some privileges (first to go - that tiny bit of t.v. I let you watch).   And at 7 years old, it's ok to have simple choices but right now I know what's best for you and that's what goes. Yes, I am a Love & Logic parent's worst nightmare.  But at the same time would I want to follow the advice in a book written by a man who's first attempt at pop therapy (holding therapy) ended up killing some children and traumatizing others? 

Anyway, I've totally segued. 

Despite my old-fashioned parenting philosophy (which I've started to glean is very un-P.C.) I'm still a helicopter parent in my head.  I question everything I do and wonder constantly if I'm screwing up my kid.  I may let her ride horses, but when she gets bucked off I lose about five years off my life and curse myself for letting her do that.  Granted she gets to rock climb, but once she's about fifteen feet up I stop breathing and start shaking.   But despite what goes on in my head, so far so good - she's only in second grade but she seems very happy and confident and independent and friendly and she behaves well at school and saves the screaming fits for me.  But we seem to get along together more than the tantrums.  But I'm constantly worried about the tween and teen years and I'm constantly worried she's going to end up like me as a teenager which was ... just tragic ... extremely depressed, anorexic, drug problems ... the list goes on. 

 My latest concern is that she is bored at school. In our old neighborhood she was in the gifted program for students and started doing multiplication in first grade and coming home saying things like "We learned about double helixes today."  But they don't have a gifted program at her new neighborhood school and I didn't want to test her to see if she could start the school for gifted kids this year because then she's have to change schools *again* and I'd have to drive her cross town to school every day and kids in her class wouldn't be in her neighborhood.  Plus, my neighbor's kids go to the gifted school and they often say they wished they still went to our neighborhood school because the gifted school is all about academics and doesn't do hardly any of that fun stuff you're supposed to do in grade school.  It's like junior high - serious, academic, focused on high achievement.  I don't need my kid doing that when she's only 7 years old.

But the second grade curriculum is all stuff she already knows.  In fact it looks like the third grade curriculum is too.  For math she is doing multiplication, division and fractions and in school they're still learning to add, subtract and tell time.  Science is interesting to her because they do hands-on stuff, but she could also explain to you what a Black Hole is from watching science shows with me and her dad.  So, I don't know what to do. I emailed with her teacher about it and she assured me that after she assesses where everyone is she will have some more challenging work for the kids who are more advanced.  I know that one of my daughter's best friends is more advanced too so I may talk to her mom about it and see what her thoughts are. 

I really want her to stay at this school.  I didn't like the "too much focus on academics" attitude of the gifted program at her old school and wouldn't like it at the A.P. school here.  And I don't like the attitude that the gifted students are "better" and you go to a "special program for special kids".   It is important to me that my daughter understand that being smart is a gift you're born with like talent for music or sports and it doesn't make her a better person.  So, while she's really good at math, Diego is really good at soccer.  So, there isn't this "better than" crap going on.  If she wants to be proud of something it can be something she's worked for and achieved herself, not something she was born with and was just handed to her by genetics.

But at the same time it makes me anxious that she comes home from school a few times a week complaining that everything is too easy and she's bored.  The social aspect of her current school is great - it's an international school with kids who are from families from all over the world and a wide range of kids from serious rural poverty, to middle-class like us, to wealthy.   They have a really strong anti-bullying program and a great PTA with a bunch of really fun activities.  They are even allowed to use words like "Christmas" and "Halloween" (that is amazing these days!).  But am I doing her a disservice by not having her in a gifted program academically? Would it be worth what we'd lose to go to that kind of program?  I think it would not be worth it but I question myself.

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